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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

5/05/2004

Harper's Choice

Kevin Grace is putting a bit of stick about landing blows on the Liberals and on the chickenheartedness of the Conservatives. As he points out, the Liberal attack ads with their overt suggestion that Harper is anti-immigrant are the hardball end of Canadian politics. And he quotes Harper from a few years ago:
National Citizens' Coalition president Stephen Harper responds,

I think Chretien just doesn't care. You've got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into Western Canadian society.
the ambler
When Harper made this remark it was, with a few minor exceptions true. And there is the rub; officially, as Grace points out, it is just not done for a leader of a major Canadian politcal party to question the immigration policies of the last twenty five years. Mention them and you are immediately labelled a redneck and a racist and consigned to outer darkness by Toronto media.

Grace's take is
Do the Liberals now want a referendum on Canada’s immigration and refugee policy? Not on your nelly, they don’t. If Stephen Harper were to take the position, the majority position, that Canada’s immigration policy has been a disaster imposed on this country against the will of its citizens, the Liberals would be routed.
the ambler
I am not so sure. First off, it is by no means clear that the policy has been a disaster. It has certainly strained the resources of the country and stretched the social fabric in often disruptive ways. But I suspect the distortion is different rather than worse than the distortion which would have been caused had there been no immigration or an immigration policy which was overtly racist.

Second, the white flight which has built the suburbs around Vancouver and Toronto, has allowed a fairly significant degree of adjustment to take place. What might have been a burning issue in the Legion fifteen years ago is now a work around. For people in the main centers of Asian immigration the ragged edges of culture clash are increasingly social rather than political.

Finally, whatever else one might want to say about the wisdom of the last twenty five years of Canadian immigration policy, the fact is that there are now several million people in Canada as a result of that policy and they are not going anywhere. So, for Harper to try and run against the fait accompli of that policy would suggest he was ill attached to reality. Not a good position to be in.

Grace quotes an unimpeachable, if unnamed, authority that
shortly after Harper won the Alliance leadership it was put to him there were two issues he could employ to destroy the Liberal hegemony. One was immigration; the other was Canada’s similarly disastrous Indian policy. His response? "Nah."
the ambler
Which suggests that Harper is a little savvier than the Liberals give him credit for.